Gas line replacement set in Baker

A contractor for the city of Baker soon will begin replacing old steel natural gas lines in three areas of the city, including some pipes damaged when Hurricane Gustav uprooted trees.

The city received a Louisiana Office of Community Development disaster recovery grant of $635,319 for the project, which was awarded to Valentine and LeBlanc Inc., of Baton Rouge. The remainder of the $1,027,948 contract price will come from the city’s utility fund surplus.

The city reached an agreement with Stupp Corp. for the contractor to use an area of the former Renaissance Village site on Groom Road to store its equipment and pipe for the work in the Leland College area of Baker.

Stupp has a lease to store its pipe on the state-owned property across from the Leland neighborhood. As Renaissance Village, the site was home to hundreds of Hurricane Katrina evacuees for several years.

The project also will involve lines in the Baker Heights area, south of Baker High School, and Morvant Acres, south of Lavey Lane.

The project will benefit at least 45 percent of the city’s low-to-moderate income residents, a statement from Mayor Harold Rideau and Public Works Director Julie McCulloch says.

During the 2008 hurricanes, 22 steel gas lines were broken in various locations when the storm uprooted trees whose roots had become intertwined with the pipes.

The city temporarily repaired the broken lines and monitors them for leaks. The new gas lines are made of polyethylene, which does not corrode in the native soil as do steel gas mains.

LeeRoy White, a utilities superintendent, said the city uses a cathodic protection system to prolong the life of the metal pipes, but the plastic lines will not require the extra protection.

“It’s expensive,” White said.

In addition to new gas mains, the project calls for replacing existing gas meters and steel service lines to the homes and businesses.

Customers will be notified when their service is switched to the new meters.